Statement by Ms Marjatta Rasi, Permanent Representative of Finland, at the UN General Assembly

General Debate of the 55th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations New York 12 September 2000

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Heads of State and Government have just completed the largest ever UN gathering, the Millennium Summit. They adopted a forward-looking and ambitious Millennium Declaration. This, together with the Secretary-General’s report for the Summit, sets a demanding agenda for the United Nations for the new Millennium. A new spirit was kindled in the Summit. Now, we need to keep the spirit alive in the Assembly which now has the responsibility to start the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.

The President of Finland made a statement on the need for the UN to be relevant for the Member States and their people. I should like to elaborate some of her ideas a little further, fully supporting the statement made by the distinguished French minister Mr. Védrine, on behalf of the European Union.

Mr. President,

One of the most inspiring concepts that the Secretary-General has advocated is the culture of prevention. If we want the UN to be relevant, we must equip it with means to be one step ahead of developments. Successful prevention requires profound understanding of underlying causes. Understanding these causes we can establish an early warning system that allows us to act on time before conflicts erupt.

One of the root causes for conflicts is poverty. As almost half of the world’s population still have to do with less than 2 US dollars a day and struggle for existence, conflicts can flare up easily. Poverty is also an affront to human dignity. Trying to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty requires common efforts. Democracy and respect for human rights are important preconditions for all development and poverty eradication to sustain. Without democratic decision-making, respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, gender equality and good governance it is unrealistic to expect sustainable results in poverty reduction.

Demand for respect for human rights will continue to shape the destiny of humankind also in the future. One of the greatest achievements of the United Nations has been the codification of a core set of human rights standards. Governments have the obligation to implement these standards. The UN is the only global organisation primarily mandated to ensure respect for human rights. The UN should devote more attention and resources to the full realisation and enjoyment of these rights universally.

Mr. President,

Globalisation is not only an unavoidable process but something which is on the whole beneficial for human development. Globalisation today is not merely a continuation of the familiar process of internationalisation of trade, market integration and growing interdependence. In these processes we encounter the phenomenon of quantity changing into quality. The development of new technologies greatly multiplies the effects, both positive and negative, of globalisation.

I believe that the great majority of the world’s population have benefited from globalisation. Some have certainly made vast profits of it. As such this is not to be deplored but at the same time too many people are losers in the same process. Many more fear the potential threats and losses they perceive as negative effects of globalisation. Still more are anxious as to whether global processes are under control any longer. For these reasons it is of utmost importance for us to be able to face the challenges of globalisation and to counter many negative effects it entails.

The United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organisation as well as other international actors must join forces in adopting and implementing the common rules needed to harness the positive power of globalisation. Trade liberalisation and trade rules under the auspices of the WTO should be implemented in a way that they benefit all, in particular the poorest, as well as safeguard our common environment.

One aspect of managing globalisation includes the need to enhance stability, transparency and responsible behaviour in international financial markets. We must counter disturbances caused, for example by short-term speculative capital movements. Initiatives such as currency transaction taxes, the so-called Tobin tax, deserve careful consideration. If, as some studies indicate, such a tax is unworkable, it is all the more important to propose and adopt other means and instruments to achieve the same aims.

One of the most recent challenges is the digital divide created by the revolution of information and communication technology. Computerisation and Internet literacy are not an end as such. They should serve purposes of development : education, literacy, health care, empowerment, inclusion. By closing the digital gap we help developing countries join the knowledge-based global economy. In the long run digital revolution has the greatest potential for the developing countries. ICT will make technological leap-froging possible for developing countries.

The global agenda set in the UN conferences and summits in the 1990s addressed many such basic needs of human life which need common attention in the process of globalisation. Progress was made on human rights, gender equality, population, social development, sustainable development, drugs, environmental issues and many others. In the new Millennium we must focus on the accelerated implementation of the plans of action adopted in these conferences. Still our agenda keeps growing. Children, HIV/AIDS, racism and racial discrimination, financing for development, least developed countries as well as sustainable development and environment require more profound attention from the world community. Even with these issues I am afraid that our agenda is not exhausted. The growing agenda poses valid demands of coherence on the UN system and its work as well as on the Member States.

Mr. President,

No matter how well we implement the global agenda and no matter how much we resort to preventive actions, we have to have improved means to solve crises and conflicts as peacefully and rapidly as possible. Finland welcomes the Secretary-General’s initiative to take a critical look at the UN peace operations by a panel of eminent persons. The Brahimi report suggests a comprehensive reform of peace operations. We need a detailed discussion on the report without a delay There are lessons to be learnt for the UN and its Member States. We should particularly learn from the failures so as not to repeat them. But we also must learn from successes and see what works.

We need to address the whole continuum of peace operations from the point of prevention. It is most important to try to prevent crisis from erupting. Prevention is an important element during the crises as we try to stop its escalation. Prevention continues also after the crises in post-conflict peace-building as we need to minimise their consequences and their duration, not to speak of their repetition. Kosovo is a prime example of this.

I am stating the obvious when I say that the UN needs rapid reaction capability, qualified and experienced personnel to perform the operations as well as the money to pay for them. This would make it easier to address an increased demand for UN peacekeeping.

The critical approach taken in the Brahimi report should also be extended to other fields and activities of the UN in order to attain efficiency gains within the organisation. Reorganisation and prioritisation would free both human and financial resources for the core areas of our responsibilities.

Mr. President,

There have been positive developments in some crises which have been a long time on the UN agenda. A most encouraging example is the rapprochement in the Korean peninsula. Finland welcomes the positive development to bring peace, stability and reunification to the Korean peninsula and encourages the two parties to advance the process of dialogue. Finland also welcomes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon in accordance with the Security Council resolution 425. We hope this leads to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Nation building process in East Timor has started successfully. I hope that the present transition period will soon lead to full independence for East Timor. Recent incidents in West Timor against UN personnel, however, jeopardise the progress and the possibilities of the UN system to help. We also strongly support the Secretary-General´s efforts to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Developments in Africa have not been as encouraging. I regret deeply that the safety and security of the UN personnel has not been guaranteed in all UN operations, like in Sierra Leone. However, Eritrea and Ethiopia have reached an agreement and international monitoring can start. I am happy to announce that Finland will participate in the United Nations mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The continuum of multidimensional crises must be prevented, managed and solved with appropriate multidimensional means. Addressing them requires cooperation among different organisations like the United Nations, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Nato, the OAU, the OAS, to mention a few. The complexity of crises has shown that no single organisation is capable of dealing with all aspects of a crisis - military, civilian and humanitarian. Sad experiences, for example from the Balkans remind us that many weaknesses still exist in conflict prevention and management capabilities of the international community. A clearer division of labour between the organisations is needed. They must concentrate on what they can do best, following the principle of comparative advantage. Complementarity and cooperation are the friends, and rivalry the enemy of any operation.

Coherent action is needed to address the situations bearing in mind the comprehensive concept of security. I stress the need to enhance our civilian crisis management capabilities in all relevant fields. Complex crises need expertise in the fields on civilian police, rule of law, human rights, justice, electoral assistance, institution-building, economic reconstruction and rehabilitation as well as impartial media. As stated in Brahimi’s report doctrinal shifts and more thorough strategic planning are needed at the UN to address complex and often intra-state conflicts.

Mr. President,

Peace and security are indivisible. Disarmament is a part of a comprehensive and integrated action in preventing conflicts and in promoting a global dialogue on peace and stability. Arms control agreements, including the ABM Treaty remain a cornerstone in international security. The successful outcome of the NPT Review Conference creates a new momentum in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. CTBT must be ratified by all. We hope for a swift entry into force of the START 2 Treaty, and we are looking forward to the commencement of the START 3 negotiations.

One of the main concerns is regional arms race. We need to ensure that the few countries remaining outside the NPT regime do not develop weapons of mass destruction. Also conventional arms and in particular anti-personnel landmines, small arms and light weapons remain a concern in regional and internal conflicts. The UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms in All Its Aspects should aim at significant results in adopting a comprehensive approach integrating security and development.

Enhanced international action is also needed in humanitarian demining particularly in post-conflict situations where civilian population continue to be victims of anti-personnel landmines.

Mr. President,

I wish to join the Secretary-General’s call on all States to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at the earliest possible date. It is important now to build on what has been achieved in and after the Rome Conference and to secure the early establishment of the ICC, fully respecting the integrity of its Statute. More and more States, including my own, are approaching the stage of ratification of the Rome Statute. We are confident that in the long run all States will recognise the benefits of a permanent international criminal court.

Terrorism is an evil we must combat decisively and effectively so that every one can live and travel freely in the world without having to fear crimes and kidnappings. We have negotiated 12 major anti-terrorism conventions within the UN framework which make it clear that terrorist acts are criminal and can never be justified by any ends. This obviously also applies to the means used to combat terrorism.

Finland welcomes the initiative of the Secretary General to offer an opportunity to sign any Treaty and Convention of which the Secretary General is the depository. In this connection I should also like to make reference to the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations. As the host country of the conference Finland would like to encourage all States to sign and ratify the Convention in order to bring it into force as soon as possible.

Mr. President,

The purposes enshrined in the Charter and the new challenges the UN is facing require an unwavering support to the UN and to multilateralism from its Member States. The United Nations is an expression of the will of its Member States to deliberate and act multilaterally. There are many reasons why multilateralism is the preferred as well as perhaps the only sustainable way to deal with problems. It involves all the actors that are needed in a long-term solution of conflicts. It provides the transparency that modern conflict resolution requires. It strengthens the respect for international law in general. And last but not least, it diminishes the possibility that force is used unnecessarily or disproportionately.

A tendency toward unilateralism would only re-open old divisions or create new ones. The United Nations is a stronghold of multilateralism and it should be used to safeguard the primacy of multilateral action. In this respect we must ensure that the UN is able to act effectively when the need arises. The role and ability of the Secretary General must be enhanced to enable the organisation to act when it otherwise threatens to be paralysed.

In this context I want to make it clear that the crisis management capacity under construction in the European Union will be at the service of the international community. It is not intended for unilateral interventionism. The Union will contribute to international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the principles and objectives of the OSCE Charter for European Security.

For this kind of a multilateralism to work the UN finances must be put on a sound, sustainable and equitable basis. It is crucial for its strength and credibility. Charter obligations related to the payment of contributions must be fulfilled by all on time, in full and without conditions.

Cooperation between the UN, governments and NGOs has been very successful and it must be intensified and facilitated. It has to be extended to cover the whole civil society. Present challenges are too heavy for the UN to carry alone. I commend the Secretary- General for his several initiatives in this respect. In particular I mention his Global Compact initiative which seeks to engage corporations in the promotion of equitable labour standards, respect for human rights and the protection of the environment. Cooperation with the civil society is a necessity for the new Millennium. Strong partnerships are needed to meet the challenges posed every day in the present world. This trend should be strengthened and encouraged.

Thank you, Mr. President.